Interview: Hearing the Voice of the Dragon with Writer Chris Roberson

Chris Roberson is certainly no stranger to horror books.  Having created the hugely popular iZombie with for Vertigo, Chris left DC citing that the treatment of their creators was unjust.  Chris found a home with the hugely popular Hellboy and B.P.R.D books, working alongside Mike Mignola.  With their new book Rasputin: the Voice of the Dragon #1 hitting the stores on 15th November, we at Comic Crusaders caught up with Chris to discuss the book, influences and just how does a book with two writers work:

Comic Crusaders: You have spent quite some time in the “Mignola-verse”.  How does the writing process work when there are two writers on a book? 

Chris Roberson: Every collaboration is different, but in the case of the Hellboy books the process begins with a conversation between me and Mike Mignola, often with our editors in the mix, about what the story is about and how it unfolds. Those conversations can take place over the phone, or in email exchanges, or over meals (which is always preferred). And once we’ve got the bare bones of the plot worked out, we move onto outlining, and again the outline is passed back and forth until everyone is satisfied with the shape of the thing. Then I do a pass at writing the script, and continue to do revisions incorporating notes and suggestions from everyone on the team until it’s ready to hand off to the artist (in this case, the incomparable Christopher Mitten).

CC: For fans of your previous work, with its nod those who would create the B.P.R.D, is this essentially a prequel book? Will this book feed into the creation of the B.P.R.D?

CR: For those who are well-versed in the history of this world, this could be seen as a prequel to the early BPRD stories, but we’ve structured it to function very much as a standalone story, so that the reader need not be familiar with the characters or this world to enjoy it.

CC: What was the reasoning for choosing the Mad Monk Rasputin as the big bad in the book?

CR: Rasputin has always loomed large in the back story of Hellboy, but we haven’t really explored just what he was up to in the days of WWII before now in any great detail. We know that he was in charge of a group of Nazi occultists, and headed up a program that ultimately resulted in Hellboy being summoned to Earth, but what was he doing before that? And did anyone on the side of the Allies ever suspect that he was the one calling the shots from behind the scenes? Those are some of the questions that this series will attempt to answer.

CC: What do you think is the attraction of Hellboy, B.P.R.D and the various other horror books that Dark Horse are publishing?

 CR: I think that part of the attraction of Hellboy and the related titles is that from the beginning Mignola and his various collaborators have built a world that is very recognizable as our own, but with interesting things going on in the shadows. In the present day adventures like Hell On Earth, those shadows have stretched until they’ve all but covered the globe, but in these period-piece series we can tell stories that slot between the pages of history as we know it, but with interesting twists.

CC: The book is quite wordy, giving it the impression of a history book rather than a comic.  Was that intentional as a means to give the book some gravitas?

 CR: I prefer to avoid putting too many words on the page if at all possible, but in this case we needed to have the young Trevor Bruttenholm as a narrator of sorts, to help provide some historical context for what is happening, and so we made use of the character’s personal memoir as narrative captions.

CC: What is your favourite horror monster of all time and why?

CR: I’m a big fan of the classic Universal Studios version of Frankenstein’s monster. He’s just got such a fantastic look, and there’s something appealing about the mix of charm and doomed pathos that you get with that version of the character.

CC: Who are you inspirations; what comics are floating your boat at the moment?

CR: My reading tastes are pretty far-ranging and change from day-to-day, but the most recent comics I’ve enjoyed have been ASTRO CITY, BLACK HAMMER, Jillian Tamaki’s SUPERMUTANT MAGIC ACADEMY, Tom Gauld’s BAKING WITH KAFKA, and Anders Nilsen’s TONGUES.

CC: Which do you prefer, working on the existing characters, or world building with books like this.

CR: World-building can be fun, but I also derive a lot of enjoyment from finding the little unexplored corners in existing worlds like Hellboy’s, and figuring out what new stories it might be interesting to slot in there.

Thanks for taking the time to speak to me, Chris.  Good luck with the book.

Rasputin: The Voice of the Dragon is out in comics shops and online from 15th November.  For those interested in the book, please click the link for a review HERE

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